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Derek Ernest Gilmor Briggs (born 10 January 1950) is an Irish palaeontologist and taphonomist based at Yale University.[1] Briggs is one of three palaeontologists, along with Harry Blackmore Whittington and Simon Conway Morris, who were key in the reinterpretation of the fossils of the Burgess Shale. He is the Yale University G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History, and former Director of the Peabody Museum.[4][5][6][7][8][9][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Derek Briggs
Derek Ernest Gilmor Briggs

(1950-01-10) 10 January 1950 (age 69)[1]
ResidenceNew Haven, Connecticut, United States
Alma mater
Known for
Scientific career
ThesisArthropods from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, Canada (1976)
Doctoral advisorHarry Whittington


Briggs was educated at Trinity College Dublin where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geology in 1972. He went on to the University of Cambridge to work under British palaeontologist Harry Blackmore Whittington.[15] He was awarded a PhD in 1976 on Arthropods from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, Canada.[16]

Research and CareerEdit

While at the University of Cambridge, Briggs worked on the fossils of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia alongside a fellow student Simon Conway Morris, both under the supervision of Harry Whittington, on the exceptionally well-preserved Burgess Shale fauna.[17] The Burgess Shale project subsequently became one of the most celebrated endeavours in the field of palaeontology in the latter half of the 20th century. On 1 July 2008 he took over as Director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.[18][19] He became the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics at Yale in 2011.[20]

Briggs's research is on the taphonomy, or preservation, and evolutionary significance of the exceptionally preserved fossil biotas known as Konservat-Lagerstätten – fossil formations that include evidence of faunal soft tissue. His work involves a range of approaches from experimental work on the factors controlling decay and fossilisation, through studies of early diagenetic mineralisation and organic preservation, to field work on a range of fossil occurrences.[21][22][23][24]

Date Position
1974–1977 Postdoctoral research Fellow, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge[citation needed]
1977–1985 Department of Geology, Goldsmiths College, University of London
1985–2002 Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol (Chair 1997–2001)
2001–2002 Visiting professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago
2003– Professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and Curator in charge of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University
2004–2007 Director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies
2008–2014 Director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University
2011– G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University

Awards and honoursEdit

His nomination for election to the Royal Society reads:


  1. ^ a b "BRIGGS, Prof. Derek Ernest Gilmor". Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online edn, Oxford University Press.(subscription required)
  2. ^ a b "EC/1999/04: Briggs, Derek Ernest Gilmor". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 22 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b Boyle Medal Laureates Royal Dublin Society
  4. ^ "Curriculum vitae: Derek E.G. Briggs" (PDF). Yale University. 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  5. ^ Briggs, Derek E. G. (2014). "Adolf Seilacher (1925–2014) Palaeontologist who pioneered analysis of trace fossils". Nature. 509 (7501): 428. Bibcode:2014Natur.509..428B. doi:10.1038/509428a.
  6. ^ Derek Briggs's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  7. ^ Briggs, D. E. G. (2003). "The role of decay and mineralization in the preservation of soft-bodied fossils". Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. 31: 275–301. Bibcode:2003AREPS..31..275B. doi:10.1146/
  8. ^ Briggs, D. E. G.; Kear, A. J. (1993). "Fossilization of Soft Tissue in the Laboratory". Science. 259 (5100): 1439–42. Bibcode:1993Sci...259.1439B. doi:10.1126/science.259.5100.1439. PMID 17801278.
  9. ^ a b Briggs, D. E. G.; Fortey, R. A.; Wills, M. A. (1992). "Morphological Disparity in the Cambrian". Science. 256 (5064): 1670–3. Bibcode:1992Sci...256.1670B. doi:10.1126/science.256.5064.1670. PMID 17841089.
  10. ^ Stankiewicz, B. A. (1997). "Preservation of Chitin in 25-Million-Year-Old Fossils". Science. 276 (5318): 1541–1543. doi:10.1126/science.276.5318.1541.
  11. ^ Briggs, D. E.; Fortey, R. A. (1989). "The early radiation and relationships of the major arthropod groups". Science. 246 (4927): 241–3. Bibcode:1989Sci...246..241B. doi:10.1126/science.246.4927.241. PMID 17839017.
  12. ^ Orr, P. J.; Briggs, D. E. G.; Kearns, S. L. (1998). "Cambrian Burgess Shale Animals Replicated in Clay Minerals". Science. 281 (5380): 1173–1175. Bibcode:1998Sci...281.1173O. doi:10.1126/science.281.5380.1173. PMID 9712577.
  13. ^ Briggs, D. E. G. (1999). "Molecular taphonomy of animal and plant cuticles: selective preservation and diagenesis". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 354 (1379): 7–17. doi:10.1098/rstb.1999.0356. PMC 1692454.
  14. ^ Briggs, D. E. G. (2013). "A mosquito's last supper reminds us not to underestimate the fossil record". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110 (46): 18353–18354. Bibcode:2013PNAS..11018353B. doi:10.1073/pnas.1319306110. PMC 3832008. PMID 24187151.
  15. ^ Bryson, Bill (2004). A short history of nearly everything. London: Black Swan. p. 397. ISBN 978-1-40909-548-4.
  16. ^ Briggs, Derek Ernest Gilmour (1976). Arthropods from the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian, Canada (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
  17. ^ Morris, Simon Conway (1998). The Crucible of Creation : the Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. vii. ISBN 978-0-1985-0256-2.
  18. ^ Bhushan A (27 November 2007). "'Visionary' Briggs to lead, expand Peabody". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  19. ^ Yale News (20 November 2007). "Derek Briggs Appointed Next Director of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History". Yale University. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  20. ^ Yale News (8 February 2011). "Derek Briggs is named the Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics". Yale University. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  21. ^ Derek E. G. Briggs, D. H. Erwin, and F. J. Collier. The fossils of the Burgess Shale. ISBN 156098659X
  22. ^ Derek E. G. Briggs, C. Bartels, and G. Brassel. The fossils of the Hunsrück Slate. ISBN 0521117070
  23. ^ Derek E. G. Briggs and Peter R. Crowther, eds. (2003). Palaeobiology II. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-632-05147-7 and ISBN 0-632-05149-3.
  24. ^ Derek E.G. Briggs, Nicholas H. Barton, Jonathan A. Eisen, David B. Goldstein, and Nipam H. Patel. Evolution. ISBN 9780879696849